Some Odd things To Do In Florence – Part II



This is an extended version of a guest blog I wrote for – the rest will (eventually!) follow in another blog


The gypsy didn’t draw breath. Curses both florid and impressive showered down upon me and my descendants – a possibility my guidebook had failed to mention. The gypsy opened my eyes, however, to the fact Florence offers far more than any guidebook can suggest.


Padlock The Duomo


Vasari’s frescos

The views are reason enough to climb the Duomo’s 463 stairs. Impressively, many Italian women manage this feat in heels. In unobtrusive corners in the stairwell I found marks left from the medieval builders. Then, on descending, I traversed the inner ceiling at the height of the gods, at times almost a hand’s breadth away from Vasari’s frescos.

The steepest part of climb the Duomo is over the arch. This is the place to find lovelocks – padlocks placed by couples who then throw away the key, so declaring their undying love. Once I saw the padlocks, I discovered many more; one or two on a grille covering a window, on an opening, or an inconspicuous bar. The masses of lovelocks on the Ponte Vecchio are renowned (as they are on the Pont des Arts in Paris, and as frequently removed), yet placing one here, in the heights of the Duomo, felt incredibly personal.

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A Garden in Fiesole



I sat soaking up the sun in a small walled garden. Tumbling geraniums held the moss-covered stones together, just as they did most of this hillside town. The drone of bees left the air heavy. Once formal garden paths weaved towards a statue of the Virgin, who stood forgotten in the centre of the garden. A rose branch crept out to tenderly embrace her.

Persimmons in the convent garden
Persimmons in the convent garden

Autumn sunshine danced through the trees, with midges floating contentedly in the warmth of its wake. Church bells floated up from the city. Below me, the Duomo rose above the purple haze of Florence. I hadn’t expected the cathedral to dominate the skyline so. Maybe when it was first built, but not in the twenty-first century.

Some forty-eight hours ago my plane had landed in darkness. Flying anywhere from Australia takes forever, and I’d spent a lifetime suspended in that metal cocoon. At four in the morning Rome airport lay deep asleep – except the barista, his immaculate attire completed by an elegant three-day growth. He slid an espresso across the polished counter to me, and in minutes the potent brew had shattered through the layers of cobwebs numbing my brain. Continue Reading →

Walking With Dante in Florence

Dante began The Divine Comedy in 1308, while exiled from his beloved Florence. The pain of this banishment surfaces in his writing: You shall leave everything you love most, this is the arrow the bow or exile shoots first. (Paradiso, XVII). The poet never returned to his native city; even the tomb built for him in 1829 in Sante Croce remains empty. Yet were Dante to return to Florence today, much of the city would be familiar to him.100_0140 - Version 2

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The Painting Finished By An Angel

Only in Florence


100_0318The Via Dei Servi leads from the Duomo to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a pedestrian-only piazza which has always held special importance for Florentines. With its distinctive arcades it remains one of the city’s most picturesque squares. The Grand Duke Ferdinand astride his horse between a pair of fountains decorated with monkeys spitting water at sea-slugs. Up until the end of the 18th C, the Florentine New Year began on the Feast of The Annunciation (March 25th), and each year the feast is marked with a huge festival and a fair which fills the piazza and over-flows into the side streets.

The Piazza Santissima Annunziata was designed by Brunelleschi, who also designed the two main buildings, the Spedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) and the Bascilica della Santissima Annunziata.

The Basilica is the mother church of the Servite order, (hence the Via Dei Servi) often known as the Servi di Maria (Servants of Mary). This order was founded in 1234 by seven Florentine aristocrats collectively termed the Seven Holy Founders, who, on seeing a vision of the Virgin, retired from Florence to a hermitage in the wilds of Monte Senario. The church was founded in 1250, and originally known as the Oratory of Cafaggio. Continue Reading →